Socialist Worker

US troops kill Afghan families

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2041

It was a six mile rampage of indiscriminate murder. US troops in Afghanistan gunned down tens of civilians following an attack on their army convoy in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan.

They then attempted to cover their crimes, threatening journalists, seizing film footage and blaming the civilian deaths on the Taliban.

On Sunday 4 March a military convoy belonging to the Marine Special Operations Forces, an elite unit specialising in 'counter-terrorism', was attacked by a car bomb. One soldier was wounded.

A military spokesman announced that the Marines had beaten off a 'complex ambush' in which up to 20 bystanders were killed, and dozens were injured.

The spokesman said he 'regretted the deaths' of people caught in 'the crossfire'.

He said that the soldiers had 'panicked' after they were attacked, and condemned the Taliban for showing their 'blatant disregard for human life' by launching an attack in a populated area.

Local eyewitnesses, journalists and Afghan government officials dismissed the military's version of events.

Ahmed Najib, a 23 year old who was wounded in his right shoulder, said that after the explosion he saw 'soldiers turning and firing in this direction, then turning and firing in that direction. I even saw a farmer shot by the Americans.'

As the soldiers fled the scene of the bombing they fired on bystanders and people driving along the highway.

Some civilians attempted to pull off the road, but they were not spared.

One victim told a news agency, 'The [Marines] were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway.'

Mohammed Ishaq, 15, was hit by two bullets. He said, 'When we parked our vehicle and they passed us, they opened fire on us. It was a convoy of three American Humvees. All three humvees were firing around.'

A hotel employee said he ran outside soon after the explosion and saw US forces fire 'a stream of bullets' into a car.

'I ran to the vehicle to see how many people were inside,' he said. 'We found three dead bodies, and one wounded, but he was also in a very critical condition.

'All four people were from one family,' he added. 'The one who was wounded was about 20 years old.'

Footage

After the incident, US soldiers detained journalists including reporters from the Associated Press and Afghan TV crews, forcing them to erase footage of the massacre.

According to Khanwali Kamran, a reporter for the Afghan channel Ariana Television, US troops told journalists, 'Delete them, or we will delete you.'

The killings sparked a wave of protests across the country, with demonstrators chanting 'Death to America', 'Death to Karzai', in reference to Hamid Karzai, the US-backed president.

On Tuesday, around 2,000 protesters blocked the motorway between Jalalabad near the Pakistani border and the capital Kabul – a major trade route with Pakistan.

The latest massacre comes as Nato announced a new offensive in Helmand province, in the south of Afghanistan, to recapture districts under the control of the resistance.

Up to 5,500 troops are set to storm the town Musa Qala and 200 other villages and settlements in the southern province.

Musa Qala was abandoned by British troops last month in the face of heavy resistance by the Taliban-led insurgents.

Warplane

Meanwhile Nato announced that US warplanes dropped two 2,000 pound bombs on a village compound in the northern Afghan province of Kapisa, north of Kabul.

Nato claimed this was done in retaliation for an attack on their base.

According to witnesses, the bombs pulverised the mud-brick homes. Nine civilians are believed to have been killed, among them five women and three children.

The nine killed are reported to be members of the same family spanning four generations. Dozens more were reported to have been wounded.

The attacks on civilians have deepened tensions between occupation forces and their Afghan allies.

US backed officials rushed to distance themselves from the latest killings, but as news of the deaths spread, many Afghan people rioted, attacking Nato forces and their allies.

There are currently around 5,600 British troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Last week defence minister Des Browne confirmed plans to send a further 1,400 British troops there, taking the total to around 7,000.


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News
Sat 10 Mar 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2041
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